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Is manufacturing back?

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Is there a real revival of manufacturing in the United States, or is it just talk? And if it’s real, is it generating jobs? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“Well … first of all, it is real. Indeed, manufacturing output, the volume of everything … our factories produce is at an all-time high. In fact it’s doubled (what it was) 20 years ago.

“Likewise, the value of that manufacturing output is at an all-time high. In fact, it’s 10 times higher than it was after World War II.

“Now, some jobs are coming back. Nationally over the last two years we’ve seen 300,000 manufacturing jobs added. But we’re still 200,000 manufacturing jobs under pre-recessionary levels. And most economists think we’re never — never — going to recover all those lost manufacturing jobs, even if manufacturing continues to grow, for one simple reason: how we make products in our country.

“And indeed in a lot of countries is change — fewer people, more equipment, more high tech. It’s sort of similar to what farming went through, where 80 years ago, one in three people worked on the farm. Today only 1.5 percent of workers are on the farm, yet they produce five times more farm output.

“So yes, manufacturing is back, but it’s a different kind of manufacturing — one that does not use as many workers.”

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